Candidates hit the election trail as two ‘safe seats’ go to the polls

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It is the third election in just four years although Brexit will play a central role in both how the electorate votes for as well as how the party’s will be canvassing.

The Conservative governments of both Theresa May and Boris Johnson have tried and failed to get a withdrawal agreement passed by Parliament in order for Britain to leave the EU.

All three main parties have a different stance on Brexit with the Conservatives wishing to press ahead with Boris Johnson’s deal and take the UK out of the European Union by January.

The Labour Party are campaigning on a ticket of holding a second EU referendum, with Jeremy Corbyn promising to negotiate a new deal to ‘get Brexit done’ in six months.

The Liberal Democrats say that if they achieve a majority, they will revoke Article 50 to keep the UK in the EU, but since this is unlikely, they are also backing a second referendum.

Both Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge & Malling are considered safe seats for the Conservatives.

No other party has won in either parliamentary constituencies since the electoral boundaries were formed in 1974.

But on Brexit, the two constituencies differ.

The Brexit referendum results were counted by Councils based on their borough or district boundaries, and not parliamentary constituencies, but Tunbridge Wells was the only area in Kent where the majority [54.9 per cent] voted Remain as opposed to Leave [45.1 per cent] in the EU referendum of 2016.

Greg Clark voted through both Theresa May’s Brexit deal and Boris Johnson’s, but he was ousted from the party after voting for a bill that blocked a no-deal Brexit.

He told the Times: “On the biggest issue that faces us right now – how we leave the EU – I have argued consistently that we should leave the EU with a good deal that allows us to continue to trade easily with our neighbours, and that we should not accept a no deal Brexit.”

But he has since warned against holding a second referendum.

He said: “My view is that a policy of unilaterally cancelling the result of the referendum and pretending it never happened will not bring our country together as we should be aiming to do, but would sow division and anger and prolonged uncertainty for years to come.”

In Tonbridge & Malling the Brexit situation was reversed with 55.7 per cent of voters choosing Leave over the 44.3 per cent who voted Remain.

Mr Tugendhat was in favour of remaining in the EU in 2016 – his wife Anissia Morel is a supreme court judge in France, but he has persistently voted for the deals offered by both Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

He told the Times: “Since the referendum, in Parliament I have voted to leave the EU at every opportunity, and have never once voted to extend the Article 50 deadline because we’re not short of time, we need to act.”

Dr Antonio Weiss Labour Party candidate for Tunbridge Wells

Today [Wednesday] the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee [NEC] is expected to approve the nomination of Dr Antonio Weiss as their prospective parliamentary candidate for Tunbridge Wells.

Councillor Dr Antonio Weiss is a public service consultant and currently an elected Councillor and Cabinet Member in the London Borough of Harrow.

“I am a businessperson, author and councillor. My aim is to build on our second place in the 2017 election, when the Lib Dems came a distant third, and secure a Labour victory in Tunbridge Wells, where my wife and family have their roots.

“Labour will safeguard future generations by tackling the climate emergency.

“It will build genuinely affordable homes. It will stop the unnecessary misery caused by Tory / Lib Dem austerity and give our schools, the NHS, and emergency services the funding they need.

“And it will heal the divisions of Brexit by giving a People’s Vote on any deal.”


Ben Chapelard: Liberal Democrats candidate for Tunbridge Wells

Ben Chapelard is a current serving Councillor at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. He works full time as a teacher.

“I have successfully campaigned on many issues on behalf of local people such as doorstep recycling and stopping the Tory Town Hall and theatre complex.

“Now I am taking the fight for Tunbridge Wells to the next level, to defend local jobs and businesses by stopping a disastrous Brexit.

“As a teacher, I am also committed to secure better funding for local schools, where parents are having to buy extra textbooks and subject choices are being slashed. As the father of two young boys, I will also fight climate change, by legislating for radical measures to cut harmful carbon emissions and improve public transport.

For the future of our families, we must ensure that we have cleaner air and safer streets locally.”

Trevor Bisdee: Green Party candidate for Tunbridge Wells

Trevor Bisdee is a retired Metropolitan Police Officer, who now studies and works in horticulture. He enjoys competitive running in his spare time.

“If elected I would introduce a Green New Deal, to address both the Climate Emergency, and the social inequality that the outdated ‘jobs and growth’ economy had left us with.

“We would deploy the new technologies and changes needed, thereby promising a future for our children and their children, whilst creating millions of substantial jobs in green technologies, rather than the low-security, low-wage jobs that the system has recently created.

“We would hold a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal, and campaign to stay in the European Union, to continue reaping the environmental, social and economic benefits.”

Greg Clark: Conservative Party candidate for Tunbridge Wells

Greg Clark was first elected MP for Tunbridge Wells in 2005 and held a number of positions in Government, including Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

 “We need someone strong, respected and experienced to speak for our community. Someone who is visible, approachable and effective, and is taken seriously by government.

“I work flat out for local people, and I get things done: from dualling the A21, to getting Tunbridge Wells Hospital built. I have helped thousands of people with individual problems.

“There’s much more to do and I will continue to fight for upgraded roads to beat congestion, improved mental health services, faster broadband and a clean and green environment.

“It’s time to reunite our nation – I stand proudly as a sensible, moderate MP in the centre-ground of British politics.”

Christopher Pendleton Brexit Party candidate for Tunbridge Wells

CHRISTOPHER Pendleton lives in Tunbridge Wells with his wife Penny and daughter Sophie. He was an active Councillor at Speldhurst Parish Council for seven years.

“The general consensus in the Brexit Party is that the deal that Boris has presented to parliament is not a proper Brexit. It is just Theresa May’s deal mark two.

“Who presides over the problems within the free trade area? The EU will. The EU will remain in control.

“Locally, I am passionate about bringing back honesty and openness to politics and representing the requirements of the Tunbridge Wells Electorate and championing their causes.

“These include Gatwick Airport’s expansion, the continual demise of small businesses in the Town Centre due to high business rates, and air pollution – Tunbridge Wells has some of the worst polluted roads in Kent!”

Cllr April Clark Green Party candidate for Tonbridge & Malling

April is an HR Director and former Vice Chair of a national disability charity. A mother of one young daughter, she co-founded the South Tonbridge WI and volunteers to support refugees.

“After campaigning locally on important issues such as air quality, housing and planning, I was elected to Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council this year – and I have been working hard to hold the Conservative-dominated council to account since.

“The more people who vote Green, the louder the voice for a different kind of politics.

“Westminster politicians have failed us all on Brexit, so we need a Peoples’ Vote to give power back to the people.  We also need investment in local communities to tackle the climate crisis and transform Britain into a place that works for everyone.”

Tom Tugendhat Conservative Party candidate for Tonbridge & Malling

TOM served as an Army intelligence officer in Afghanistan and the Middle East. He was elected MP in 2015 and was appointed chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

 “I’m standing to be re-elected to represent Tonbridge & Malling based on my record over the past four years.

“In that time we have achieved a lot together. We have funded flood defences, reduced business rates helping Tonbridge High Street, and saved Hadlow and West Kent College. I want to continue this good work for our community.

“Tonbridge is thriving because of the efforts so many people put into our community. I want to play my part in that success.

“There is still so much more we can do and I hope to continue working with others to succeed, not least by improving infrastructure and transport.”

Richard Morris Liberal Democrats candidate for Tonbridge & Malling

Richard, a constituency resident for over 30 years, is a lawyer, banker, publisher and educationalist. He is on the board of the European Movement.

“Brexit is the dominant issue in this General Election. The outcome will colour all other areas of policy, including the economy, security, health, environment and education, for years, perhaps decades, to come.

“As Liberal Democrats, we have been wholly consistent in our belief that no Brexit deal can come close to matching the benefits we currently enjoy as a member of the EU.

Both the Conservative and Labour parties have been deeply split and have been motivated far more by party political considerations than by the national interest. Now voters have a choice between real options – rather than the misrepresented fantasies of 2016.

As the Times went to press, the Tonbridge & Malling Labour Party was yet to select a candidate.

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